Monday, August 24, 2009

Passport Denied When Parent Owes Support Arrears

You are a non-custodial parent planning a vacation to Cancun with your kids. Your passport has lapsed and you apply for a new one, along with your children. Instead of receiving your passport, you get a letter from the Secretary of State denying your applications. Why?

Because you owe more than $2500 in child support, and because the custodial parent must assent to the passports for the kids. Child support enforcement has had a federal component for several years now.

Back in 2001, the U.S. government mandated that states align their child support accounts with state-wide computer programs. In Michigan, all county Friends of the Court have implemented the Michigan Child Support Enforcement System (MiCSES). MiCSES then certifies the support owed and reports those in arrears over $2500 to the Office of Child Support Enforcement, which is under the U.S. Dept of Health & Human Services (DHS). Next, DHS notifies the State Department which denies the passport application.

Also, in cases of divorce or custody disputes, both parents must execute passport applications for children under age 14 pursuant to the federal Two Parent Consent Law passed back in July 2001.

Once you are on the State Department's list, you do not automatically come off, even when the arrears are paid. Eventually, your passport will lapse and you will be unable to get a new one without a hassle. In addition, you may be stopped at the boarder unable to leave or re-enter the country. If this occurs, the DHS has summarized the steps you should take on its useful website:

The MiCSES state-wide computer program has several automatic enforcement components in addition to passport denial. The computer automatically reports certified arrears to the U.S. Treasury and the State of Michigan for tax refund intercepts. Arrears are also automatically reported to credit bureaus.

If you are owed child support, or want to address an arrearage, contact our law office to discuss your options.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Divorce in the NFL

Maximum temptation; continuous travel; lots of money. These are just some of the factors that contribute to the excessive divorce-rate among players in the NFL.

There are no solid statistics, but an unofficial poll along with anecdotal evidence puts the divorce-rate for NFL players at 70% according to a recent NYT article; significantly higher than the overall divorce-rate of about 50%.

Another statistic, perhaps correlated to the high rate of divorce among players, is that within two-years of their retirement, a shocking 78% of these NFL players are bankrupt, unemployed or divorced. There are good reasons for this.

Among professional athletes, football players have a rough row to hoe. They suffer more physical pain on average than in other sports due to the aggressive high-speed nature of their game. They have the shortest average career among all pro athletes; three and a half seasons according to the Players' Association. Contracts for the average player, while lucrative, are usually non-guaranteed and contain significant injury clauses. These stressors can transfer to the player's marriage.

The recent shooting death of one of the league's preeminent quarterbacks, Steve McNair, brings to a head the significance of an NFL player's retirement. McNair was widely perceived as the consummate family man. Married, but killed by his girlfriend, he is one player who sadly will not be adding to the NFL divorce-rate.

Most of us would blame McNair for his own fate. Some insiders, on the other hand, point to several factors that increase the toxicity of marriages among NFL players: rampant infidelity, the "trophy-wife" concept, women who target professional athletes, player entourages that tend to suppress the intimacy required if a marriage is to work.

Perhaps most significant is the painful transition of the athlete from the gridiron to retirement. Issues of self-worth come into play among a group of macho athletes not used to focused self-awareness and who have a seemingly genetic resistance to counseling.

Mothers, don't let your girls grow-up to be NFL wives...